Hedgehogs have always attracted attention from humans, and so have been the subject of several myths and legends. This can be explained by their unusual appearance and often eccentric behaviour - and so it is plausible that they lead to misunderstandings.
Some people claim to have seen apples punctured as though by spines around a hedgehog nest. Others tell of a hedgehog picking up apples in its mouth, assembling them in a group, then turning over on its back and rocking to and fro on top of them. Others say that they have seen a hedgehog walking away from a tree carrying apples impaled on its spines. Even if hedgehogs are physically able to carry apples, there is no point in doing so. They hardly eat any fruit, and can easily take what they find lying on the ground. Nor do they hoard food for the winter - they store their energy supplies in the form of fat.
Another legend tells us that hedgehogs are immune to snake bites. A hedgehog under attack from a snake would immediately roll up and protect itself with its spines. If the snake persists it is likely to damage itself severely on the spines, and the hedgehog may seize the opportunity to sink its teeth into the snake and roll up again. If an adder managed to strike the hedgehog on its nose or other unprotected skin, the animal would probably become ill and die. The hedgehog's natural immunity means that a few survive and would therefore enjoy a degree of immunity later in life.
There is a popular country belief that hedgehogs suck milk from the udders of recumbent cows, sometimes to the extent that the cow's overall milk yield may be affected. Hedgehogs certainly enjoy milk and a number of vets have reported damage to cows' udders which could have been caused by a hedgehog's distinctive teeth marks - so it seems that the occasional hedgehog might have tried it!
Folklore says that hedgehogs can predict a change in wind direction. Upon doing this a hedgehog is said to alter the entrance to its nest accordingly. While this belief is harmless, others are not so hedgehog-friendly. In Africa and Asia, hedgehogs have been killed for food and also for their supposed medicinal properties. Gypsies especially believed parts of boiled hedgehog cured partial blindness, boils, baldness and even leprocy.
The hedgehog was worshiped by some ancient cultures. Some thought that a figure representing Mother Earth would take the form of a hedgehog. In particular, hedgehogs were associated with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (also known by her Greek name Astorte) who was the goddess of love and war. To the ancient Egyptians, the hedgehog symbolised reincarnation - probably because they misinterpreted the hedgehog's hibernation cycle as it dying in autumn then coming back to life in spring.